Sabarimala (Kerala), Nov 4 : With the Lord Ayyappa shrine opening for a day on Monday, the temple town has been virtually taken over by some 2,300 Kerala Police personnel after protests marred the last pilgrimage season.
The pilgrims will be allowed to go up the pathway only on Monday afternoon, an official said.
The temple opens its door at 5 p.m. and closes on Tuesday at 10 p.m.
Pathanamthitta District Collector P.B. Nooh has declared prohibitory orders in and around the temple town banning the gathering of four or more persons to foil street protests.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous Hindu groups are up in arms against the September 28 verdict of the Supreme Court that allowed women of all age groups to enter the temple.
The Kerala government has said it will implement the ruling, pitting it against the protesters.
All the roads leading from Nilackal to the base camp of the temple town Pamba are barricaded and have been declared out of bounds till Monday morning by the police.
The police are checking each and every vehicle that passes in and around the temple town. On Sunday, after protests, the police allowed the media to travel till Nilackal.
Kerala BJP spokesperson M.T. Ramesh warned the police against examining the holy kit (Irrumudi Kettu) that is carried on the head by the pilgrims.
Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that there appeared to be some shady goings on as the media had never before been banned into the temple town.
“If the media is kept away, then the authorities want to hide something,” he said.
State Congress President Mulapally Ramachandran said: “Parties like CPI, academics, intelligentsia and socio-cultural icons should prevail upon (Chief Minister Pinarayi) Vijayan to see that he handles this very sensitive issue in a more mature way.”
The Sabarimala Karma Samithi has written to media groups not to depute lady journalists to cover Monday’s events at the temple that are generally out of bounds for women in the age group 10 to 50.
The Samithi is angry that when the temple opened for the monthly prayers last month, attempts by two women journalists to do their job from the temple top were thwarted by protesters.
The representatives of the Pandalam Royal family, the custodian of the jewellery of the Sabarimala temple, said the temple was passing through “tough times” as the temple town had been taken over by the police.
“We will hold a special prayer and singing of hymns when the temple opens,” said Sreekumar Varma.
Pathanamthitta district Superintendent of Police T. Narayanan said on Sunday that as of now, there had been no request from women to enter the shrine.
As of Sunday , the police have registered 545 cases and arrested 3,731 persons who protested last month when the temple opened for six days.
Only around 100 are still in jail, while the rest have secured bail.